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Richard H. Durrance

Hall of Fame Class of 1958

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Richard “Dick” durance was an excellent ski jumper but he was far better known for his skills on the alpine slopes. From 1935 through 1941 he won no fewer than ten national titles in slalom, downhill and alpine combined.

Dick Durrance was born on October 23, 1914 in Tarpon Springs, Florida, an unexpected birthplace for a man who eventually would make an indelible mark as a top-notch alpine skier.

At age six he was enrolled in the New York Military Academy. It was there he was introduced to skiing. When he was twelve his mother took him and his brother, Jack, to Garmisch, Germany to go to school, learn German and ski. In 1932 at age 17 he became Germany’s National Junior Champion. By the time the family returned, in the spring of 1933, Dick had established himself among the leading racers in Europe.

Durrance worked his way through Dartmouth College where he further honed his skiing skills under the tutelage of the legendary Otto Schneibs and Walter Prager. Between 1935 and 1941 he was the dominant male skier in the nation, first for the Dartmouth Outing Club and then for the Sun Valley Ski Club in Idaho. Among the honors he garnered were the national downhill championships in 1937, 1939 and 1940, the national slalom championships in 1937, 1939, 1940 and 1941 and the alpine combined titles in 1937, 1939 1nd 1940.

As a member of the 1936 U.S. winter Olympic Ski Team he placed ninth in the slalom, tenth in the downhill and tenth in the alpine combined. In the slalom he nearly won the first gold medal by an American skier but a course judge claimed he straddled a pole and he was penalized five seconds.

Although Durrance was an excellent ski jumper his fame lay in his unorthodox style and apparent “devil-may-care” attitude in alpine racing. Among other things, he became known for his unique “dipsy doodle”. He combined a nimble athleticism with an unmatched feel for the snow,

He also lent his name to help Minnie Dole publicize the nascent National Ski Patrol. He helped lay out the first trails in Sun Valley where he had the distinction of winning the Harriman Cup three times and of retiring it in 1940. In June of the same year he married Miggs Jennings, a winning racer in her own right. He made the 1940 Olympic team but never competed because of the war. They spent their first summer as newlyweds in Sun Valley then helped develop Utah’s Alta ski area. There they started a lodge, a ski shop and a ski school simultaneously. In the winter of 1942 Durrance helped train 100 paratroopers to ski.

In October, 1947 George Berger, head of Aspen Ski Corporation, invited him to help run the Aspen ski area. Here he cut trails and was responsible for bringing the F.I.S. World Championships to Aspen in 1950. The Durrances would make Aspen their permanent residence.

In addition to being a top-ranking skier, Dick Durrance made a name for himself as a photographer and movie producer. He filmed his first ski movie, the classic “Sun Valley Ski chase” in 1940 and won first prize at the Cannes Film Festival the following year. He made “Snow Carnival”, starring Gary Cooper, for Warner Brothers in 1949, ”Norway Nation on Skis”, a documentary for the U.S. Information agency in 1951 and “Olympic Winter, about the Oslo Games in 1952. All in all, Durrance produced or directed at least fifty movies during his long career.
Dick Durrance is recognized as one of the top four-event skiers the country has ever produced. He was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1958.

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